Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Girl, The Ego and The First Grocery Shop

Grocery shopping.

It even sounds mundane. It's that thing we all have to do every few days or so if we want to maintain our stash of fresh fruits and veggies. And so it was to be our 'event', last Tuesday. As usual, nothing here is ever just what it seems on the surface or even at second glance.

This grocery event actually harkens back to last weekend. At the time, we would never have realized that... days before actually arriving at the grocery store, we began our journey...

It was the annual town-wide yard sale. We've lived here for seven years now, in this small community. Having grown up in the big city, it is a whole new way of life for me and this yard sale extravaganza is no exception.

Here's the deal: We live just outside of town and so we turn this into a full day outing. We load up the bikes, trikes and buggies and a picnic lunch before heading out. Once in town, we park the van (of course with all of our 'gear' it has to be a full-sized eight-seater) and then we walk and walk and walk...

It's a wonderful walk because the gardens are all blooming and it seems almost everyone in a small town really tries their best to have a wonderful looking yard. It inspires me. (It doesn't make me a successful gardner, but it does inspire me to keep trying to be one.) And every third house seems to have their driveway filled with wonderful magical goodies that will somehow make our lives better.

And so, to provide lessons in economics, negotiating and budgeting, each child was given five dollars to spend as they desired.

Of course, the first thing my son saw was an enormous dinky car track/digger toy that he just had to have. I told him not to pay more than two dollars for it but, at six years old, he was too shy to make the deal. So, I went with him to talk to the lady. She was asking $5. I offerred $2. She kindly accepted. And then I made my mistake. (Pay attention parents-of-young-children...)

I grabbed a toonie out of my purse, thinking that my son's $5 should go toward his own negotiations. Feeling strangely rewarded and satisfied with our deal, we balanced the toy on top of the double stroller and moved on.

We then came across another house that was selling cloth diapers and infant summer clothing that I enjoyed perusing for about half an hour. During that time, the children went to the home two doors over. Though my son was still feeling too shy to negotiate, he stood witness as my eight year old daughter did the haggling. She managed to master the technique in about five seconds and scored a $3 Bionicle for $2, a 50 cent slinky for half price and other unnamed treasures.

All this time the children were running back and forth, between the neighbour's house and our buggy. I was thinking that they were putting their 'deals' directly into the buggy. This was not the case. They were using up the change in my purse before 'breaking' their own five dollar bills.

By the time I finished making my own, extremely satisfying, deals. I realized that I had indeed made a gross miscalculation. I had promoted the idea of making one's money last longer by using someone else's money first. And so the change purse bank was immediately closed for business and the children were left to their own devices and five dollar bills.

It didn't do much good though. They already had pretty much everything they wanted.

My son declared, "I'm going to put mine in my money jar at home to save for something really big. Maybe even for my Smart Car!" (To my chagrine, he has recently stated that he's not going to have children when he grows up because he's getting a Smart Car. Therefore, there won't be any room for children. .. DARN that Smart Car!)

My daughter, in her usual subdued manner, refused to comment in any way, on the future of her own five dollar bill.

Then, several days later, at the grocery store, she confidently announced that she would be using her money to do her very own "First Grocery Shop".

Believe me when I say that I had some difficulty with this. I had all kinds of dreams about what creative thing she would do with her money. Buying food was not on that list of possibilities. My first reaction was that she would have to spend her money on groceries when she grew up. She should get other things now. However, I curbed my tongue because I had made the commitment that they could spend their money however they please and I would not interfere.

I am glad that I did not interfere... and I know that there is another parenting lesson in there but I will have to give it some time to let it sink in.

Her excitement was almost palpable as she placed the marker on the checkout belt to keep her items separate from mine.

On the way home, every time I looked in my 'kiddie' rearview mirror, she had a big grin on her face whilst looking out the window. Finally, she exclaimed, "I love buying my own groceries!"

Usually when her father comes home, he has to search her out to say hello. And when he asks what she did, the usual response is, "I forget." (The bane of all homeschooling parents, worldwide.)

But this day she ran to the door and blurted out that she had, indeed, done The First Grocery Shop of her Life. She then proceeded to list her carefully and wisely chosen items: "...6 kiwi for $1!... a package of radishes... some Fruit-To-Go travel snacks... and some moneyplant seeds!" (Perhaps she thinks that she can grow some money?)

And even now, her thrill is as palpable as if she's just disembarked the biggest roller coaster on the planet, as she replays the events of her "First Grocery Shop".

This is the beginning of something BIG... here in The Gray Zone...

Sunday, May 14, 2006


Today is Mother's Day.

I received a small and inexpensive gift.

My six-year-old son made me a frisbee out of a coffee can lid. He decorated it with special drawings and added pinwheel stripes, and an edge, made of golden star stickers.

Now I know that to some, who may not be parents or who are more inclined towards gifts that cost more financial dollars, this may seem like a simple, somewhat benign child's gift to his mother.

And to others, it would hold more weight simply because of the extra effort a homemade gift requires.

Neither of the above frames of mind apply to my way of thinking because I've never really put much value on these 'extra holidays', and actually don't care much for the value placed on gift-giving.

However, in my Mother's Heart, Today, I just know that this is absolutely The-Best-Frisbee-Ever!

I know this because, unbeknownst to my small boy, it is not the only gift that he gave me. This frisbee is simply the vehicle/respresentation of many other gifts with which my son bequeathed me today. And the true gift, again, unbeknownst to him, was actually in his declaration to me upon presentation of said-homemade-toy.

You see, the truth of the matter is that he made this frisbee completely of his own volition. effort. time. and creativity. (Not because of school, as we homeschool. And not due to television, as I asked if he had watched a craft show that made one.)

So, yes, this is a very small gift. However, It is also infinite in size and importance. It is a combined thing being: inexpensive, expensive and expansive. It is enormously simple and simply enormous. It is both intro- and intra- spective. Because of this best-frisbee-ever, he has given me the wonderful realization that he has the abilities (completely on his own) to:

1) Think critically;
2) Build on a penchant for creating something constructive by making it pretty too; and
3) Place importance and value on his relationships; followed by the implementation of a plan that will foster continued growth in relationships-that-he-values, by showing his appreciation in terms of both time and effort. (Big inhale after saying that last one.)

And as he held his small, inexpensive, seemingly benign, physical gift out to me, he most formally and quietly said, "I made this frisbee so you and I can have lots more play time together."

Things are not always as simple as they seem... here in... The Gray Zone...

Monday, May 08, 2006

A Glass Sink In A Dance Studio Bathroom

Everybody's seen just one of them. You know... those renovation shows where they finish some glorious project in a weekend? In two days they perform miracles on houses that need far fewer miracles than my 100 year old farm house does.

That's not to say I don't like my farm house. On the contrary, I love it... But it needs some work. We knew that when we bought it. My husband and I are both fairly handy and have a love for older architecture. That's what made the house attractive to us in the first place... We could make it our own.

We've been wanting to renovate the downstairs bathroom for quite some time but I could just never find 'the perfect sink'.

Well, I finally found one! It looks like a square-ish glass salad bowl.

Now I realize that there's no overflow and we have three children. I know... I'm asking for a tidal wave in my house... But it really is such a beautiful sink!


So last month we got the sink and tap (I already had the antique table to put it on) and got started.

We've decided to make it up like a dance studio, wall mirror and ballet bar included. I was so excited. The first step is gutting the place. That took two days (and we didn't have to replace the tub). End of show.

Filling and sanding and installation of toilet and sink... another two days... End of show.

We have three children, two dance recitals, a couple of playgroups and no project time. End of third show.

I managed to find a narrow, antique wooden door. So now I am in the process of putting in a new doorway to connect, said bathroom, to the laundry room. I have to cut out an old hand-hewn beam to do it. RATS! If I can figure out a way to keep it, I will... but it's not looking good. Then I'll try to finish up sanding and painting. End of fourth show.

Oh, and did I mention that when we installed the sink, I went around the mulberry bush with the store because they didn't have the proper plug (the one without the overflow holes in the pipe)? No one ordered them because they didn't realize they needed them..... Sheesh, it was a hardware shop not a department store! You think they'd know that if they sell sinks without overflows that they're going to be selling drain pipes to accomodate the lack of overflow. I didn't fail to order it, they failed to tell me that they didn't order it... until I called to find out if it had arrived. "Oh, we're very sorry, the warehouse should be receiving the shipment in approximately two weeks."

"Oh." Shows 5 and 6.

Now, I'm not saying it's not worth it but it's just not happening in one show... here in... The Gray Zone.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Gluten: You had to know I'd get to it!

For those who don't know, my son (who was born very healthy), from the age of two weeks to three years, was very ill and not growing as quickly as he should have been. He also seemed to cry a lot and could not be consoled. It seemed he was exhausted but could not sleep properly. He also seemed to have some vague type of seizure disorder where, when he cried, he would get 'stuck' in an exhale and couldn't inhale again until he passed out, which of course put him under constant threat of a concussion because he was crying so often. He had heart tests, lung tests, blood tests, cystic fibrosis testing, etc. Yet no specialist could figure out what to do with him.

Finally after two years, our pediatrician came back from a convention and said, "I think he has celiac disease." She promptly sent us to the local pediatric gastroenterologist who looked at him and after a cursory visual check deemed him not to have celiac disease. I did not know, at the time, that it is not possible to tell if a person has cd just by looking at them... and so I went home, relieved that cd had been ruled out.

So another year passed and he just seemed to be getting worse and worse. However, after the suggestion of cd, a bug had been put in my brain that maybe we should eliminate all food as an issue. I did not act on it until I came across a book in the library called "Breaking the Vicious Cycle", by Elaine Gottschall. The book was in the wrong section of the library which leads me to believe that God, the Goddess, our angels, Buddha... or some higher entity, made sure that I found the information to improve, not just my son's life, but the lives of every individual in my family! Anyway, finding this book was the motivator that brought us to the decision to try an elimination diet to rule out food as an issue.

Honestly we did not expect any improvement at all. We just wanted to be able to say that we had done it, and done it well. Well, in four days we had a brand new child who was happy and carefree and without bowel issues for the first time in three years. Our pediatrician subsequently sent us 3 hours away to a pediatric gastroenterologist who specializes in celiac disease who has since deemed my son as Celiac based on the outcome of the diet.

What's more? Well, I lost my lifetime worth of daily headaches (sometimes very brutal), and my daughter and my partner were no longer fatigued (among other more private functions that I don't have permission to divulge). None of us wanted to go back to eating gluten because we liked feeling better and didn't want to go back to feeling so crumby (hah).

Well, after watching my son get so much better (No more doctor/hospital visits for 3 years!), our diet is becoming more strict all the time (no gluten, limited grain, no cow dairy, etc.). The dichotomy is that it is also expanding at the same time. (Hooray!)

Now we eat squash, all kinds of squash. Squash was something I never cared for before but now I have found that you don't just eat it plain, you actually do stuff with it and it tastes good! I use it to make pizza dough and tea bread (among other things).

The same goes for goat dairy (all kinds), buckwheat (not really 'wheat'), eggplant, beets, avocado, parsnips, turnips, cabbage, berries, apples, pears, and on and on.

These things have all increased in our diets so that we are eating a more varied diet than we were when we could take the easy way out and just bulk ourselves up with grain.

So when someone tells you their diet is extremely limited... you should really take it with a grain of sea salt... here in... The Gray Zone.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

The "Far Apart" Children

The “Far Apart” Children

As a young girl, I remember my friends and I all wanting our future children to be close in age so that they could grow together and play together. Some wanted the boys to be older to protect the girls and some wanted the girls to be older so that they could babysit the boys. (As if boys are not capable of this task…And as if you’d ever leave a 13-year-old in charge of an 11-year-old…Hah!)

Now, as life would have it, the greatest teacher about the truths of our existence, is experience...

My first two are close together. Whether they know it or not, they are truly each other’s best friends. They keep each other constant company. My daughter, the older child, teaches the younger one to strive to keep up. And my son, the younger of the two, forces my older child to put into practise, lessons of patience and endurance. It is a thrill to watch them build on each other’s creativity when they concoct all kinds of stories, plays and dramas.

When my son was born, however, it was not as ‘easy’ as it is now that they are both walking, talking and independent. My daughter, at two years of age, was truly remarkable in her desire to help in the care for her younger sibling. But let’s face it, caring for an infant and even the most cooperative toddler is extremely time-challenging and those ‘special moments’ with the younger infant were fewer and farther between than they were when I only had one infant and no toddler distracting my focus.

With a miscarriage following our son’s birth and several years of unexplained infertility, I found myself pregnant after suffering a cold. Why it is, that a husband can still find his wife to be sexually appealing when she has a runny nose, cough and is all the while ingesting as much over-the-counter cold remedies as she can, is beyond me. However, I am convinced that the particular cold remedy I was taking has some magical ingredient in it that ended our bout of infertility… but that is another article.

And so our third child, Ben, was born into our family with siblings, six and eight years older than he. He is also the child who has more helping hands at his beck and call than any child should probably bear witness to on this planet. At 5 months of age he has no worry of any toy dropped, as someone is there to pick it up for him within 5 seconds. He gets more kisses than the other two did because there are two more sets of lips in the house. And because my daughter thinks of him as her own personal, living doll, he is almost constantly carried which is, of course, one of the things in life that babies love most. He wants for nothing that a baby wants. And now, I can witness all the joys of having a small baby in the house, yet enjoy my very own, unaccompanied, visits to the bathroom... at least for the time being.

I’ve noticed that the older children also have tolerances for the baby, that they do not afford eachother. For example, they find eachother’s spit disgusting and/or offensive. And they seldom say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to eachother without some kind of prompting from my partner, or myself.

However, Ben’s ears, according to them should only be encumbered with sweet, almost melodic tones and they never miss a ‘thank you’ for his gobby, spitty, stringy, baby-kisses. In return, my older two children are learning some wonderful care-giving recipes that they would not have without their much younger sibling.

My six-year-old son will spend half an hour making funny faces that make the baby laugh and squeal. When that same six-year-old was 6 months old, there was not an adult within 50 kilometres that would spend half an hour making faces… no matter how cute and adorable those fits of giggles were. Adults just don’t have that kind of time. And a two and a half year old is just too busy doing... well... all that self-absorbed, two-and-half-year-old-stuff, that two and a half year old is supposed to be doing.

So there are some wonderful benefits for all of our children in this scenario. And yes, the ‘close together’ children are wonderful to have…but so are the ‘far apart’ in... The Gray Zone...

The Gray Zone

I’ve been thinking about writing a series lately that has a lot to do about nothing, yet everything. Things that are black and white, yet not black and white. Things that have a lot to do with life and living… with death and dying… with existence and existentialism...

And so, you have now entered... The Gray Zone...